Some rides at the amusement park are leisurely pleasures. Others are roller coasters. The personal technology that gadget makers thrust at us in 2016, often gave us a dizzy feeling. At the starting gates of a new year, it’s time to decide which of the techno trends are worth following. This will help spend our money sensibly in 2016. Here’s a checklist:
E-cash or mobile wallets could see their fastest growth in early 2017. The cash travails of the last 50 days, forced many of us to explore e-wallets for the first time. We installed apps like PayTM, FreeCharge, MobiKwik – or one of the bank-sponsored wallets like Chillar or Pockets. The problem is, none of them are universal and interchangeable - that means either a wallet will work with a limited number of merchant establishments or it requires the recipient to have installed the identical wallet. You end up dividing your money into multiple wallets. Only last week, government announced yet another option, the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) where you don’t even need a phone, but your Aadhaar number should be linked to a bank. In 2017, this can be expected to take off in a big way -- but let’s wait till some sort of shakeout happens to determine which is the de facto national wallet. Any Aadhaar-linked system poses one technology challenge: authentication which means a finger print or iris eye scan – and this is another technology that will peak in 2017.
Phones with scanners
Like tail wagging the dog, the camera on the mobile phone is often more powerful than the phone itself. Handsets with 20 megapixel cameras are here. Actually pixel count alone, doesn’t make for a great camera – both iPhone 7 and Google Pixel have just 12 MP cameras --you need good optics. The biggest news of 2016 was the phone with a camera that let you shoot first, focus later. It achieved this by offering a rear camera with 2 lenses: one shooting in colour, the other in monochrome. (The latest dual lens camera-phone, the Cool One is reviewed on this page).
It will make sense in 2017 to ensure that any new phone you buy has either a fingerprint scanner or an Iris scanner. You can’t do much with it right now, except use it to unlock your phone. But government is bending on industry to make such scanners Aadhaar-compliant – that means, they come pre installed with software that can connect to the Aadhaar data base and be used to authenticate an Aadhaar number. In 2016, I saw only one Aadhaar compliant device – a Samsung tablet – but Indian brands like Intex, Lava, Lyf and Micromax are known to be talking to leading makers of iris scan technology likeActive Iris from DeltaID and e-Parakh from Biomatiques. By mid 2017, we can expect to be offered handsets with Aadhaar-certified eye or finger scanners. Such a phone will be very useful in multiple situations including e-payments and ID-proof.
Meri awaz suno
‘Bots are the new apps!’ says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. In 2016, chatbots – a combo of two compelling technologies: Artificial Intelligence and simple human conversation -- became a potent new tool. iPhone’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Voice Assistant are all quick learners and smooth talkers. You can talk to them to find some information, order something or open an app or tool. The good news is you should be able to install a chatbot for free on almost any phone in 2017. Expect leading e-sellers like Amazon, e-Bay, FlipKart, MakeMyTrip to offer chatbots which will allow you to make a selection and pay for it (almost) entirely by voice. A popular chat-based personal assistant for iPhone and Android, is the Made-in-India Haptik.
Year of the Selfie?
The selfie craze swept through 2016 and many makers are optimizing handsets to unimaginable levels for the selfie-centred owner. Software tools are available to make you look better than you are – and wide angle lenses ensure that your entire gang can fit in the frame. According to Sanjiv Bhatia, co-founder of OnlyMobiles.com, Viva V5, Oppo F1S, Honor 8, Gionee S6S and IPhone 7 are the most popular phones with Indian selfie seekers. The V5 has a whopping 20MP selfie camera. A backlash was inevitable and many tourist spots now ban the taking of selfies – mostly for the taker’s own safety or those of bystanders. As front cameras become dual lenses and better every day, many are discovering the joys of actually clicking things other than themselves. Try it, it could be addictive!
Type-C, hai ji!
The reversible, Type C USB Connector made a tentative appearance last year, on phones and tablets. Some handsets like Pixel, IPhone 7 were Type-C only, using the port both for charging and data transfer. LeEco exploited the Type C link to power up features like noise cancellation on earphones, which otherwise would a called for additional batteries. More new phones in 2017 will be only Type C – so be prepared to carry a USB adapter cable till it’s an all-C world.
Finally, it’s 4G
With 2016, 3G started to fade away. Anything less than 4G on your phone today and you will lack the juice to drive 360-degree video, always-on Internet, augmented reality and most of the new technologies that are going mobile. Last week, Twitter enabled you to send live video with your tweets. Google’s Duo and Apple’s FaceTime have made video calling as simple as voice. Reliance Jio harnessing 4G VoLTE, offers rich communication services where you can switch from voice to video at will.
And the price is lower than ever; Last month, Pune-based Swipe launched a 4G VoLTE phone, the Konnect4G for Rs 2,799. Internet is everywhere — already in 100 railway stations, another 300 by end 2017, thanks to a Google initiative.
Say hello to a tech-rich, purse-friendly 2017!